Archives For *Featured Reviews*

 

Our Many Misunderstandings
of the World Around Us

A Review of

Scienceblind:
Why Our Intuitive Theories About the World Are So Often Wrong
Andrew Shtulman

Hardback: Basic Books, 2017
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Reviewed by Alisa Williams

 

In an age where scientific information is readily at our fingertips, why do so many people resist or flat-out deny scientific explanations for everything from pasteurization and immunization to geology and genetics? This is the question Andrew Shtulman, a cognitive and developmental psychologist, seeks to answer in his book Scienceblind.

The quick answer is intuitive theories, our “untutored explanations for how the world works,” get in the way of reality (4). These intuitive theories are pervasive and indiscriminate – even scientists with years of study subconsciously resort to false intuitive theories when tested. This alone seems cause for alarm, but Shtulman offers hope. If we can understand why our minds insist on carving “up the world into entities and processes that do not actually exist” then we can also course correct our minds by dismantling those pesky intuitive theories so we can “rebuild them from their foundations” (5).

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The Puzzle Box Top:
Seeing the Big Picture of Racism and American Evangelicalism

A Feature Review of 

The Myth of Equality: Uncovering the Roots of Injustice and Privilege
Ken Wytsma

Hardback: IVP, 2017.
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Reviewed by Cynthia Beach

 
 

Watch for our interview with Ken Wytsma in our Fall 2017 magazine issue.
SUBSCRIBE NOW and be sure to receive this coming issue.

 

My puzzle pieces were disparate. My African American student who overnighted with us and who, when he wandered the grocery aisles in my small (white) town, perspired heavily—as if he was distressed. Or that essay by Brent Staples, the African American who, when he roamed midnight sidewalks, would whistle Vivaldi to lessen the fears others had assigned his skin color. Or Hidden Figures when a smart woman’s heels click-clacked as she rushed out one building and into another to use the colored ladies restroom. I held the pieces, but not the picture until I read Ken Wytsma’s The Myth of Equality.

This Oregon pastor’s fourth book handed me the proverbial puzzle box lid that helped me fit together pieces to the disturbing puzzle, our American racism and white privilege. Finally, the picture was clear. When I finished this potent book, I thought, Now I get it. Now I see it.

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A Difficult Church Service
to Sit Through

A Review of 

Tears We Cannot Stop:
A Sermon to White America
.

Michael Eric Dyson

Hardback: St. Martin’s Press, 2017.
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Reviewed by Jordan Kellicut

 

My first memory of race was the Rodney King beating and subsequent riots. Growing up in a white family, in a white community, in a white school, race was not a thing I ever considered. I do, however, remember watching King being beaten on the evening news. I always assumed that the four police officers who perpetrated this act of racially charged violence were charged, convicted, and jailed for the crime. I was shocked to learn, in Michael Eric Dyson’s Tears We Cannot Stop: A Sermon to White America, that these men were found innocent (though two were later convicted in Federal court). This likely illustrates the very issue of race in America – namely many white Americans (like myself) are oblivious to the experience of people of color, and as we have seen in the past few years, often hostile to their story.

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Seven Societal Lessons
We Need to Learn

A Review of 

Blood in the Water: The Attica Prison Uprising of 1971 and Its Legacy
Heather Ann Thompson

Hardback: Pantheon, 2016
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Reviewed by John Hawthorne
 

This review originally appeared on
the reviewer’s blog
and is reprinted here with permission.

 

I tell my students that there were five radicalizing events that led to me being a sociologist, although I didn’t know it at the time. It started with the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. in April 1968. I was old enough to have been following the civil rights movement and understood how the killing was a reaction to a quest for justice. That was followed just two months later by the assassination of Bobby Kennedy. Because I was Kennedy campaign chairman in my eighth grade history class, I’d gotten my Very-Republican grandmother to drive me to Kennedy headquarters to pick up campaign paraphernalia. And now he was dead. In May of 1970, four students were killed by the Ohio National Guard during a Vietnam War Protest. That introduced me to the idea that government officials might act badly. Between 1972 and 1974, I watched in fascination as the President of the United States had his illegality exposed and resigned the presidency in disgrace.

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A Calm and Quiet Presence
 
A Feature Review of 
 

Radical Spirit: 12 Ways to Live a Free and Authentic Life
Joan Chittister

Hardback: Convergent Books, 2017
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 Reviewed by Alexander Steward
 
 
We are a people that search. We search for the things we have lost. We search for the latest and greatest item that will make our life that much easier. These searches tend to focus upon the outward self and what will benefit us as individuals the most. The search that is easily avoided because it takes too much time and a lot of patience, is the search for the inward self. The self that is called to be in relationship with God. It is in this search that we are able to grow as individuals and nurture our relationship with God.

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A Disentangled Deity.

A Feature Review of 

Jesus Untangled:
Crucifying Our Politics to Pledge Allegiance to the Lamb

Keith Giles

Paperback: Quoir Books, 2017
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Reviewed by James Matichuk
 

This review originally appeared on the reviewer’s blog.
Reprinted with permission. 
*** Visit his blog for many other insightful reviews!

 
Keith Giles is an Anabaptist in the house church movement.  His new book, Jesus Untangled is an attempt to disentangle Jesus from the political Right. He doesn’t advocate for wedding Jesus to the Left either. The problem with American Christianity is that Jesus is so enmeshed with nationalism that we fail to see Jesus on his own terms. In 186 pages, Giles offers his diagnostic of American Christianity and offers a solution: the recovery of Jesus as the central component of Christianity. The implication is that following Jesus chastens our nationalism, empire building, militarism, and violence.

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Not for The Faint of Heart

 
A Feature Review of 
 

Break Open the Sky: Saving Our Faith from a Culture of Fear
Stephan Bauman

Paperback: Multnomah, 2017
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Reviewed by Jeff Crosby
 
 

Chicago’s historic Fourth Presbyterian Church at the corner of Michigan Avenue (the “Miracle Mile”) and Chestnut, a Gothic Revival masterpiece designed by famed architect Ralph Adams Cram, opened more than a century ago. Since its first worship services in 1912, the church has played host to numerous cultural and spiritual gatherings of importance alongside its weekly proclamation of scripture and its robust outreach to people – both the well-heeled and the down-on-their luck – in the heart of the near north side of the city.

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Reading with Creative Anachronism 
 
A Feature Review of 

Biblical Truths: The meaning of Scripture in the 21st Century.
Dale Martin

Hardback: Yale UP, 2017.
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Reviewed by Jordan Kellicut
 
 
Biblical Truths: the meaning of Scripture in the 21st Century is billed as a ground-breaking book which seeks to give a framework for how to think theologically in light of our postmodern world. From the first page Martin lays out intriguing and frequently scandalous methods of interpretation. His introduction is a critical introduction to his thesis and methodology. Martin argues, rather persuasively, that there is a difference between pre-modern and modern Biblical interpretation. Namely the pre-modern Christian assumed that everything in the Bible was written to that person, in that place and that time. Thus the meaning of the text was not necessarily what the author meant. This is striking since the prevailing thought in both academic and popular understanding is the meaning of a text is located not “in” but “behind” the text – what I learned to call “authorial intent.” A substantial amount of Martin’s introduction is dedicated to tracking how this hermeneutic progressed into modern theology. He then contends that the division between Bible and theology is a modern invention and not a helpful one.

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Jesus, Messiah of the Poor

 

A Feature Review of

Always with Us?: What Jesus Really Said about the Poor
Liz Theoharis

Paperback: Eerdmans, 2017
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Reviewed by Joseph Johnson

 

Fifty years ago, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. declared in his famous speech “A Time to Break Silence” that, “True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar. It comes to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring.” I think these words, challenging as they are, express the conviction that undergirds the efforts of Liz Theoharis in her timely new book, Always with Us?: What Jesus Really Said about the Poor. Her contention is that Matthew 26:11, one of the most influential passages on poverty in Scripture, has often been twisted out of context in order to give red-lettered justification for viewing poverty as inevitable and pitting Jesus in opposition to the poor (13, 97). In her eyes, these conclusions have obviously damaging consequences.

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The Napoleon Dynamite
of Missionary Biographies?

A Feature Review of 

Dangerous Territory: My Misguided Quest to Save the World
Amy Peterson

Paperback: Discovery House, 2017
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Reviewed by Matthew Loftus
 
 
Amy Peterson’s debut book, Dangerous Territory, is not your typical missionary biography and it is not meant to be. As Peterson recounts her story of teaching English as a Second Language for two years in Southeast Asia, she deliberately tries to subvert the conventions of the missionary memoir in order to change the way we talk about missions. In an article last year for Christianity Today, she wrote that “We need to hear stories about the real struggles and joys of missions work.” This is one of those stories.

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